independence, ideals, celebration & pride of being American



“I don’t believe there’s any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can’t completely ignore.”

George Carlin


Americans have a way of doing things ‘big.’ We are vocal and loud-ish and unequivocally … well … American.

While it seems like we do it that way every day the 4th of July is most likely the most vivid demonstration of American loud-ism.

Now. Before I traveled the world I was convinced every country had an Independence Day they celebrated with the same gusto <if not fierceness> as America does. At some point i realized this isn’t the norm everywhere.  That isn’t to say that most countries don’t celebrate <or at least acknowledge> their independence day <a place like Finland

celebrates its independence from Russia> it’s just that no one seems to do it as bombastically as we Americans.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with bombastic patriotism.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with bombastically celebrating independence.


Independence is a bombastic ideal. One that SHOULD be celebrated loudly, bombastically & vigorously even if the Ideal doesn’t live up to their expectations when faced with reality.


Ideals are ideas.

Ideals are hope.

Ideals are a vision.

Ideals are, well, frustrating on occasion.


If you have ever personally sought the ‘ideal weight’ <not to diminish freedom & independence … just to personalize the discussion> you know progress never comes as fast as you desire, you make mistakes, you have setbacks, you have successes, and the moment you take your eye off the ‘ideal’ you lose progress if not slip backwards a little. Suffice it to say, living with an ideal in mind is difficult. Hopeful but difficult.

Using my metaphor, think of it as 330 million people stepping onto 330 million different scales 365 days of the year, every day evaluating their ideal weight against the ideal weight the country bears.

Sound like its impossible to meet the ideal? Yup. And that is independence. That is the ideal we measure ourselves and our country against.

The bar is high.  But Americans aim high.

Suffice it to say I am grateful for the country I grew up in and the freedoms we have in America that we often take for granted.

Now. I certainly do not subscribe to the theory of blind patriotism some people suggest follow along with holidays like the Fourth. I do not because I believe it is on days like this we are reminded of the work in progress ideal we strive for and our founders strove for.  It is on days like this, while we bombastically celebrate, we are also reminded, sometimes painfully, of the work in progress aspects. We will sit around our barbeques and bitch & moan and picks at the scabs of a wounded Ideal but at the same time we should also be reminded of independence and everything good that comes along with it.

In thinking about it, and the value it has to our souls and hearts (and the fact we know we have flaws and are still, sometimes sluggishly, working towards that ideal) it is natural to become self-conscious in our Americanism.


“It is, I think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most self- conscious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief that the other nations are in a conspiracy to under-value them.”

Henry James


I have seen someone call this self consciousness — self pity. I don’t. I would argue until my last breath it has nothing to do with pity or any ‘woe is me’ attitude.

I would say it has something to do with that ‘high bar’ I stated earlier.

I would say that having earned independence we have assumed a responsibility to an ideal. It is an ideal most likely truly unattainable <as most ideals are> and, as Americans who like to complete, do and succeed, we are self-conscious about the fact we are still working our way toward that ideal.

That said.

We bombastically celebrate the ideal.

And you know what? That is a big deal.

Many people in other countries do not seem to understand patriotism the way Americans celebrate the 4th.  They see it as our typical over the top celebration of pride.



We have parades to celebrate America and being American.


We have spectacular firework extravaganzas that everyone goes to.


We have massive parties that entire towns attend.


Sometimes we go a little wacko with the red, white & blue.


But it’s because we look at America differently than others may look at their own countries.

I am not suggesting it better or worse – just different.

Different in that we vigorously celebrate our ideal maybe, just maybe, to convince ourselves of the Ideal.

Convince? Well. Unlike some other countries who feel like they embody their ‘ideal’ — we do … and we don’t. We know we have an ideal. We know we have not reached the ideal state. We know we worry we may never attain that Ideal.

So, maybe, on the 4th, oddly, we are celebrating our flaws.

I wish we Americans would say that more often.  Celebrate our flaws. Because in doing so we admit we are celebrating the reach … the aiming high … the place of hope.


Set aside the celebration aspect <which is certainly an American trait>. The 4th is and is not about pride. If it were solely about pride many would hesitate because we are flawed. But to think the USA has more dirty laundry than other countries is … frankly … is silly <and slightly absurd> and no excuse for not being proud to be an American. We should be proud America holds an ideal out for everyone … just beyond their grasp … and says ‘go get it.’

4th of July is fun.

You should sit around with your family. Millions of beer drinking guys stand and grill the shit out of everything and anything they can get your hands on. Other millions go out and spend an hour blowing things up.

On this day maybe 325 million people <I will allow 5 million curmudgeonly unhappy tools to sit around and gripe about how bad things are and how flawed our country is> set differences aside and have some fun — fun with an ideal in mind.


“Americans… are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.”

Kurt Vonnegut


What I love about America is the searching.

On the 4th we celebrate the search. We celebrate the hope. We celebrate the ideal. On the other 364 days we grind it out working toward the ideal in fits & starts, and hugs & pushing, and tears & laughter, and anger & joy, and disappointment & triumph … and failure & success.

Every one of these 364 days we grind thru what is, flaws included, all the while envisioning what could be. And maybe that is why Americans are so damn obnoxious in their 4th of July celebration.  We are celebrating what could be. A better America.


I would suggest the attempt to being better than what you are today is worthy of a celebration.

Happy 4th of July.



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Written by Bruce